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Here’s how to build a vertical garden

The following post is an excerpt from Mainland Aggregates Blog

The_Ultimate_Guide_to_Building_a_Vertical_GardenAt first glance, one might not think that small spaces and gardening are much of a match, but the revolutionary idea of vertical gardens is quickly changing that perception.

Urban gardens or apartments have limited space available, but you can still grow flowers, herbs and vegetables, if you decide to set up a vertical garden.

Setting up a vertical garden may take a lot of work, but don’t get discouraged.  The fruits and veggies of your labor will be well worth the effort.

You have two options when deciding to build a vertical garden:

  1. You can call in a specialist, like a botanist, an urban greening specialist or a bio wall designer, which will make your job very, very easy. He will do all the planning and the work and you will just have to take care of the wall afterwards.
  2. Or you can do it yourself. A successful garden is earned through a trial and error process. There are books that can teach you, but experience will be your best professor.

Here is a list of books that will help you through the whole process: Books to Check Out
vertical garden book collage

Things to consider:

  1. What do you want to grow?
    Flower, vegetable, herb, or fruit?
    For more information on what grows best in vertical gardens, check out What Should You Grow?
  2. How much time, money and labor will this take?
    Tending a vertical garden may require a lot of time from you.  Harvest amounts depend on the square footage of your garden.One grower in California produced 500lbs worth of greens in one year from a 5 by 20 foot section. She grew vegetables and herbs such as tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchinis, basil and lettuce.This grower spent 8 hours initially to prepare her growing space.  Another 30 minutes of daily hand watering for a few weeks, until her plants were large enough to use the irrigation system.  And for the rest of the season, she spent 1-1/2 hours each week tying, tending and finally harvesting her vegetables.
  3. Where will you set it up?
    – Determine whether the vertical garden will be inside your house, or outside on the garden, lawn, terrace, or balcony.
    – How long does the sun shine on your location? Plants need as much sunlight as possible, so if your terrace doesn’t get much direct sunlight, you might not have the results you hoped for.
    – If you choose a location near a window, you may want to consider pest control.
    You will be building racks to support the plants, which will lean or attach to the wall.
    – Think about the irrigation system you need to put in place and how you can set that up in relation to the water pipes inside the house. Make sure not to flood your neighbors.
  4. How much will it cost? Most vertical gardens are inexpensive. There are several types you can try, such as PVC, wood, metal or plastic, but none of them are pricy.An outside vertical garden can cost somewhere between $50 and $300.  Inside gardens will be more expensive because you’ll need to waterproof the area.A DIY garden will always be cheaper than one designed and erected by a specialist. Don’t be afraid to do it yourself. It’s not too difficult.

Patrick Blanc’s Waterfall at the New York Botanical Gardens

Building your Vertical Garden:

  1. Build the Frame
    A vertical garden is made of three layers, closely attached together – the frame, the plastic sheeting, and the fabric.  You will want to build the structure before you hang it, which will make it easier for you take down.The frame can be built with PVC pipes which are sturdier, lighter and less expensive than metal.  You can build the frame yourself, using ¾ inch PVC pipes, elbows and four-way joints.  Tools and kits may be available at your hardware store.Alternately, you could use a system of wooden stacked vertical garden planters.  But wood may not be the best choice because it requires pressure treating for water protection and may still rot.
  2. Add the Plastic Sheeting
    Use expanded PVC sheets, which will act a back-up for the layer of fabric, and which is easy to attach. If you are installing on wood wall instead of a PVC, you will need to ventilate behind the wall.
  3. Add the Fabric
    Carefully attach the fabric firmly to the frame, as this is the actual layer in which your plants will be seeded and grow and which will hold the water they need.We recommend felt carpet padding, but you can use any material that holds water and doesn’t rot.To build it:
    – You will need two layers of fabric.
    – Attach the layers directly to the frame with galvanized screws of stainless-steel staples.
    – Make sure the layers are pulled so they don’t have any wrinkles or creases.
    – Attach it firmly so that it can hold the weight of vegetables and water.
  4. Add the Irrigation System
    It’s not possible to water vertical gardens manually like with horizontal gardens. You will need an irrigation system that will keep the fabric and the plants moist at all times.We recommend calling in a plumber or specialist for this step.  Even if you’ve chosen to do this project yourself, we recommend bringing in an expert so that you don’t parch your plants or flood your house.Some water will leak at the bottom of the vertical wall. You can add more plants below the structure to capture the excess water.
  5. Add a fertilizer injector
    A fertilizer injector will sprinkler liquid fertilizer on your plants all year long. It will make this process more time-efficient and spare you some manual labor.
  6. Work on the design
    You’ll want to think about the appearance of your wall before you start planting.  Here you have endless possibilities.  If you are growing decorative plants or flowers, it will be easy to give your vertical garden any shape you want, just keep in mind vegetables are heavy.
  7. Plant your plants
    With a sharp knife, make a small horizontal cut in the fabric of the installation.
    Thoroughly clean the plants root of any soil or debris in order to keep the roots from rotting.  Insert the plant into the slit you just made.
    With staples, attach the fabric to the plastic back, in a not too tight, but close semi-circle, in order to create a stable and protective envelope around the plant.

And that’s it!

Pick your own red ripe tomatoes from the vine for salad, make a strawberry pie with your own fresh fruit, or read a book in the shade of your flowery, natural wall.  A vertical garden is a rewarding return to nature in the middle of the crowded city.

Check out this DIY video from PopScreen on How to build a Patrick Blanc style vertical garden:

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2 Passive Houses in Seattle opened for tours

Two high-performance Washington homes opened their doors to the general public on Friday as part of International Passive House Days, a worldwide open house event from Friday, November 13 through Sunday, November 15.

image001Project Name: Palatine Passive
Type: Single-family home
Location: 8713 Palatine Ave N in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood
Open: Today, Friday, Nov. 13, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Note: Visitors are asked to remove shoes at the door.
Contact: Tiffany Bowie, Malboeuf Bowie Architecture,

Project Name: Park Passive
Type: Single-family home
Open: today, Friday, Nov. 13, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: 4211 E Lee Street in Seattle’s Madison Park neighborhood
Contact: Sloan Ritchie, Cascade Built,
Note: Visitors are asked to remove shoes at the door.

Affordable, comfortable, environmentally friendly—the Passive House embodies the best in sustainable construction. Typically, buildings meeting the Passive House Standard use 80 to 90 percent less energy for heating and cooling, savings far greater than any other building standard delivers. For details on the schedule for each home, consult the listings below. All tours are free. Visitors may come anytime during the listed hours unless otherwise noted.

In conjunction with International Passive House Days, Earth Advantage, a Portland-based nonprofit focused on creating better buildings, will teach the Building Science Fundamentals module of its Sustainable Home Professional training series on Friday, November 13 and Saturday, November 14. Class members will tour some of the open Passive Houses. For more information and registration, visit

International Passive House Days is sponsored by the following organizations:

Earth Advantage:
International Passive House Association:
North American Passive House Network:
Passive House Northwest:

Information on Passive House buildings worldwide is available through the Passive House Database:

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Don’t Miss Washington’s Energy Future Conference


Don’t Miss Washington’s Energy Future Conference
with Keynote Speaker Governor Jay Inslee,
Nov. 2 in Seattle.
Seattle Airport Marriott

Presented by Northwest Environmental Business Council (NEBC) and the Washington Department of Commerce

The Conference for Those Building the Clean Energy Economy

Now in its sixth year, this conference is the State’s signature clean energy event, bringing together members of the energy industry, energy policy & economic development leaders, project hosts, and users of energy services.

Included within this one conference are:

  • Policy & Economic Development
    Looking at the current context for clean energy, and how Washington can continue on its leadership path in the face of changing market dynamics.
  • The Business of Renewable Energy
    Advancing the professional level of the industry with discussions on the market and nuts-and-bolts issues related to energy project development.
  • The Business of Energy Efficiency
    Exploring how to increase the penetration of energy efficiency through policy, finance, and market
  • Energy Technology Innovation
    A look at the leading edge of clean energy technologies.

Presented by the Northwest Environmental Business Council (NEBC) and the Washington Dept. of Commerce.

Full information & registration
here or at

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There’s gold in your gray water

An inside look at the rainwater capture system's holding tank

An inside look at the rainwater capture system’s holding tank

Along with a new age of sustainability comes new interest in gray water recycling and rainwater capture systems.  These systems capture water from your house’s bathroom sinks, showers and rainfall then reuse it to irrigate the lawn and flush the toilets.

The engineering behind the effort can be tricky, but in the simplest terms it goes like this: water from the “gray water sources” gravity-flows into a collection basin. A pump in the basin then pushes the water through a filter and disinfection array and into a storage tank.  The water in the storage tank is periodically circulated to keep it clear and bacteria-free. Finally, a pressure controlled pump automatically delivers recycled water to your irrigation system when your irrigation timer activates. It’s simplistically complex.

Whether on a household level or a commercial level, many have decided to invest in the water conservation effort.  Gray water recycling and rainwater capture systems can save 50 to 70 percent of a family’s monthly water usage. You’ll save that same 50 to 70 percent on your water bill.

How much does it cost to install? Do-it-yourself systems start at $3,500.  Systems for average sized homes start at $11,000.

To learn more, visit

A small, home-installed system

A small, home-installed system



A 10,000 gallon holding tank for a rainwater capture system being buried underground at the Santa Monica Library


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How to prepare for the LEED exam

The following post is by Jess Foster:

iStock_000063149081_DoubleCongratulations on your decision to pursue a LEED Credential. These are the most sought after credentials in the green building industry by employers. A new study by Burning Glass Technologies shows that demand for LEED Green Associates and LEED APs has grown 46% in the last 12 months, so you’ve picked a great time to join in on this growing marketing need.

Your next step is to prepare for the LEED Exam. Here are some basic things you should know before selecting an exam prep program or materials:

1. Decide which credential exam to pursue:
There are several credentials you can earn based on your profession and your goals in the green building industry. I recommend looking at the USGBC site (the creator of LEED) or resources prepared by their recognized Education Partners like GBRI. Make sure to download the candidate handbook to understand eligibility requirements, registration and scheduling details.

2. Decide whether to study by yourself or sign up for an exam prep course:
Studying on your own can be challenging given the amount of material covered on these exams. Or, you can sign up for a LEED prep course. A quick Google search will show plenty of paid exam prep providers. Make sure the provider you choose is approved by USGBC or are USGBC Education Partners.

3. Choose an exam prep provider and course style:
Depending on your availability and schedule, there are several ways to prepare. There are live online classes where you attend for a month or so; on-demand only access courses where you watch sessions at your own pace; and in-person classes where an instructor teaches at a physical location. Make a selection that is right for you and your situation.Since the new LEED v4 test was released recently, you should carefully make a selection when registering for an exam prep program. An ideal exam prep course will include:

  • Narrated study materials/tutorial with option to download audio files
  • A study guide that you can print
  • Flash cards
  • Section or category quizzes (look for quizzes with answer explanations)
  • Simulated Mock Exams (at least two)

4. Study-study-study:
I recommend studying in a group or with a partner if you can. Finding someone to study with for your exam has many benefits. Some exam prep providers also provide group discounts, making it easier for your colleagues to join you in the pursuit of a credential. If you do chose to study independently with the support of a providers prep program, you’ll want to have a roadmap or plan to ensure you are staying on track and are covering all the material efficiently. Some USGBC Education Partners programs will include a recommended roadmap for you, taking even more of the guesswork out of studying.

5. Take MOCK exams:
Make sure you are completely prepared leading up to your LEED exam by using a trusted provider’s mock exams. This is your best gauge to ensure you will successfully pass the exam on your first try. This also gives you a targeted way to complete your studies and preparations based on the areas you find you are most lacking in during the mock exams. Once you successfully pass the mock exams you can feel confident going into the real thing.

Author Bio:
Jess Foster, GBRI Blog writer, studied history at Furman University, where she encountered the concepts of green living and sustainability for the first time. In her leisure time, she enjoys photographing the wildlife in her backyard and playing with her two Shetland sheepdogs.

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